SACRAMENTO, March 4, 2013 - California Assembly Member Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica) has introduced the Bobcat Protection Act of 2013, which would prohibit the commercial trapping of bobcats in California. The bill, A.B. 1213, responds to an increase in the commercial trapping of bobcats in California driven by a rise in demand from China for bobcat pelts. Numerous bobcats were killed this past year just outside the boundary of Joshua Tree National Park by commercial trappers, potentially depleting the park's wildlife population.
"Under California's antiquated trapping laws, it's perfectly legal for trappers to line the boundary of a national park with traps, kill the park's wildlife, and ship the animals' pelts to China," said Brendan Cummings, director of the Center for Biological Diversity's Wildlands Program. "Assemblyman Bloom's bill is an important step in bringing California's wildlife law into the 21st century. The Center and our members throughout California thank Assemblyman Bloom for introducing this bill that will protect one of the state's most ecologically-important wildlife species as well as the integrity of our national parks."
Rising international demand for bobcat pelts has recently led to rising pelt prices and an increase in bobcat trapping in California. In the 2011-2012 trapping season, the number of trappers reporting bobcat trapping more than doubled over the previous season, while the number of trapped bobcats rose by more than 50 percent.
The Bobcat Protection Act of 2013 would ban the commercial trapping of bobcats in California, along with the commercial sale and export of bobcat pelts. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife's current authority to issue depredation permits for bobcats would not be affected. Hunting of bobcats consistent with existing law and regulations would still be allowed in California.
During the 2012-2013 trapping season, bobcat trapping generated significant public controversy after traps were found by property owners on private lands along the boundaries of Joshua Tree National Park. Numerous bobcats that had long been observed, photographed and appreciated by residents and tourists within and along the boundaries of the park abruptly disappeared during the trapping season.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife still manages bobcat trapping based on a decades-old population estimate that was struck down as unreliable by a federal court 30 years ago. No recent population estimate exists for the state's bobcats. Under current regulations, an individual trapper in California can lawfully trap an unlimited number of bobcats virtually anywhere in the state.
"It would cost California far more money to come up with a credible population estimate of bobcats, and then implement a scientifically valid management scheme, than the pittance the state brings in from selling trapping licenses," said Cummings. "Bobcats are being killed for the private profit of a few individuals engaged in the international fur trade. But these beautiful animals are far more valuable to the state as a living component of our wild heritage."
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